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fic omg

Title: into the black
Ficverse: SPN
Series: SPN comment!fic
Rating: PG
Length: 2200 ish
Characters: Sam, Dean
Prompt: from 3.02, The Kids Are Alright
Sam: How many dying wishes are you gonna get?
Dean: As many as I can squeeze out!

Warning/Spoilers: nope, not really, nothing specific I can think of
Disclaimer: Not mine, yada yada.
Notes: I really don't know where this came from, I was just browsing old prompts and it just ambushed me and wouldn't let me write anything else until I got it done. I was trying to write entirely unrelated post-apocalyptic idfic, and generally stalled out big time, and then this happened instead. Do you KNOW how much fun astrophysics is to research?!? I think my id is trying to tell me something.


Rock crunched underfoot, black and blistered, decently apocalyptic under the broiled sky. Thin atmosphere, hotter than Hell’s highest thermostat by a hundred degrees, easy. The knowledge was filed away for some unknown, unneeded future reference. As was the chemical taste of each lungful, fuming in each tiny impervious air sac (pulmonary alveolus; Mrs Dickinson, Miller Elementary, 5th grade). The sun seared down from several lengths above the horizon, too big and bright, freakish – but not alien. Not alien at all. (Loss of hydrostatic equilibrium, exiting main-sequence phase of stellar evolution; astrophysics fascination fostered by reading A Brief History of Time to show off, 2nd year Stanford.)

He cataloged all of it neatly; he liked to know.

Before him, pointing at the smouldering sun, rose a long, narrow slope. He set out with steady strides, and now he could feel time’s rapids whipping around him, catching on his footprints, disintegrating into craters and eons in his wake. By halfway up, the sun had inched larger and cooler, as though feeling its way outward, cautious. (Core hydrogen depleted, subgiant phase of stellar evolution.) The landscape had taken on a baleful tint under its orange rays, creaking eerily. He paused, took stock with that same expression of calm curiosity, until he looked up ahead.

At the peak, only now visible against the dispersed glare, sat a figure. For the first time since he’d arrived, his heart picked up speed a little. Though facing away, still half burned out by the flares of light, even from this distance and after all this time, it was the most familiar figure in the world. Not the familiarity of his wife, a familiarity learned and earned, every inch of her, and delighted in the learning (lover; he loved to know). No, this familiarity was bred in bone, marrow and blood, knowledge impossible to excise.

(Brother.)

He resumed climbing, a little faster than before. There was no movement but his, no sign he was approaching the very last living thing on earth rather than a statue, with this massive slough of stone for a shadow cast across the land. For the first part, he didn’t need a sign. The second part, though, he wasn’t so sure.

The thermostat climbed with him; the sun was bigger now. At least ten times the diameter it had been when he started and only expanding faster, its blood-light reaching for the whole world. (There was always something trying to take over the place, fuck knew why.) He breached the crest into the full force of it, slowed to a stop, a pace off his brother’s shoulder and no shadows left.

He slung his hands on his hips, surveyed the crackled wreckage of a vista, and offered his appraisal. “Hm.”

His brother’s voice, when it came, was rusty. “Not a seller’s market.”

He snorted, and only then did his brother twitch a slow look over his shoulder, little more than a corner of the eye, before returning face forward.

“You’re here.” It was flat, but the question sounded underneath (what are you doing here), surprised but not surprised (they were long past surprise, years and apocalypses and ages past surprised).

“Yeah, well,” he answered.

His brother nodded. What more needed saying?

They remained that way awhile, bearing witness to the sun’s conquest of the sky. Through his soles, he could feel the the planet slip its heft and spin, looping out further and further as the sun hemorrhaged mass and kept growing, growing, growing. He wondered if his brother sitting there could feel it too, the grand upheaval orchestrated by pure physics; or did he just ride it out, legs hung over an outcrop wide enough for two, wide like the hood of a car, poised to drive into the final sunset?

The sun’s disc bore down along the horizon, taking up a third of the sky. Heat had been rendered meaningless, but the light was dull and hungry, battering at them with sheer expanse what it had lost in brilliance. It dyed his brother’s hands brown-red in their thoughtlessly deft movements, pulling a flask from the inside jacket pocket, twist, tip, swallow.

He didn’t recognize it, nor the jacket. Flasks and jackets wore through, got replaced. (Not like a body, or a car, renewed cell by cell, part by part, for as long as those who owned them cared to keep them running.) When it was held out, his brother’s arm stretched up and back with minimum ceremony, he took it. The taste simmered on his tongue and that he recognized. He closed his eyes, let the past wash through him (tasted like hot seat-leather and gasoline, rocksalt and metal, gravedirt, musty books, fire). It didn’t hurt, anymore.

He nudged his brother’s shoulder with his knee: move over. His brother looked up then, startled, but did, making a gap at his side the size of old habits whose death had been harder than most.

He sat, took another sip, and handed the flask back. Ahead of them, the sun had swallowed more than half the sky, and stopped, fuzzy and confused at the edges (red giant branch phase of stellar evolution, a shell of hydrogen fusion around a collapsing helium core). Below their dangling feet, rivers of molten rock overflowed, joined, became oceans. His hand landed on a loose chip of stone behind him, and he lobbed it, watching it fall. It disintegrated before it ever hit the surface.

“So.” He picked up another stone, threw it harder, tracking the parabola. “You hanging out here for fun, or is this somebody’s idea of a joke?”

His brother took his sip. “I called in a favor. Big guy owed me a few. Or he was just in that weird giving mood he gets, it’s hard to tell.”

He threw his next stone as far as he could, out over a world that was nothing but a twisted dead welt of red and black and on fire. It was certainly impressive, in its gruesome way, but – “Seriously?”

His brother squinted at him. “Weird giving mood it is, then, since you’re here to be a pain in my ass.”

“Jerkface. I chose to come.”

Another sip might have hidden a smile. After he launched a fourth hunk of stone out, his brother picked up his own piece, hefted it, flung it. They passed the time silently, swapping the flask back and forth, chucking stones into the slag under their sullen monster sun; the competition was old enough to have become both endless and meaningless, but he was pretty sure he’d got the farthest.

After a while of this, a stillness beside him caught his attention. His brother had finished off the last mouthful in the flask, and was now staring down at it in his hands. Every line of his body betrayed his age (more than years, such numbers no longer applied), weariness clinging and clogging like vines on that unmoving not-a-statue of him.

That had been the deal, the final trade in their life and death, death and life round-and-round. The last promise his brother ever made him had been that his death would stick. Off the board and off the table (forever and ever, amen). In payment, his brother remained, living so that he could die. (His brother had never learned the knack of staying dead anyhow.) A valuable gamepiece in play or in reserve, a trump card gambled on by those arrogant enough, foolish enough, desperate enough not to wonder who he was a trump card for.

In front of them, all the way to the horizon, the planet cindered like a pyre. He sighed, the revelation quiet. “You wanted to watch the world end.”

His brother didn’t react straight away. When he did, it was to toss the flask over the edge into oblivion. “Not as much as I wanted to sit on my sweet bippy and do fuck-all about it coming down.”

The spot the flask might have landed was a long way down. He studied it for a minute, then replaced the stone in his hand to where he’d got it. “Want me to leave?”

Another pause, long, long, the kind he knew oh so well. The kind upon which he’d seen the whole world turn. He waited, unneeded breath held in his throat, as if to burn.

Then his brother straightened, dragging the long lines of age back deep inside, shrugging at him like it was easy, like his answer didn’t tremor. “Nah. It’s cool.”

He nodded. “Good.”

This time, there was no flask to hide the grin behind. “Such a sap.”

“Well, you’re such a –”

“... Whoa.”

They’d both rocked back a little, blinking, when the sun abruptly released the sky, crumpling back to almost normal size and color. For a few seconds, he felt almost blind in the reduced glare, while all around them the planet creaked and cooled.

“Dude! That was the helium flash!”

His brother side-eyed him. “The what?”

“The helium flash. It’s like, when the core gets dense and hot enough to ignite helium fusion, and for a few seconds there’s this crazy intense star-sized explosion. And then the core starts expanding again –”

“Dude, there was no flash. It got smaller.”

“Yeah, that was the burning hydrogen envelope that shrunk.”

“But – now it’s helium?”

“Well, the hydrogen shell is still there, but underneath, yeah, and underneath that there’s an inert core of carbon and oxygen forming, and it’s called the asymptotic giant branch phase because –”

His brother gave a theatrical groan. “Trust you to geek out all over my retirement party.”

He grinned, wide. “Just – watch. This’s going to get seriously cool. Trust me.”

His brother’s rolled eyes completely failed to mask the affection underneath, but the sun was already swelling again, red and fast and vicious to eat up lost ground. “Huh,” he conceded.

Then the first thermal pulse hit them, hammering the world white. There was barely time to recover before another followed, and another and another, each bigger and brighter and faster than the last, shredding the huge sun and whipping out the debris. All they could do was hold tight, to a planet bucking in its orbit while the last haze of atmosphere scoured away.

He blinked, and blinked again, still half-braced. It seemed to be finished, but all he could see was whited-out blackness – had it blinded him, or ... but no. The sky above was the void-color of space, his eyes slowly adjusting to the brilliant stud in the sky that was all that was left of the earth’s star (exposed carbon and oxygen core, the white dwarf remnant of stellar evolution). He looked up, able to pick out a few other dots, the brightest night-time stars emerging in the dark as though through big-city light pollution.

It was only when he felt his brother follow his look upward that he realized they each had a hand tangled in the other’s shirt and jacket, gripping unthinkingly tight. They exchanged shaken smiles that might have been a tiny bit sheepish, and let go.

“Wow,” he offered.

“Yeah,” his brother agreed. “So ... the fireworks are over?”

He nodded, taking a moment as the awe of it all caught up with him. “Should be. It’s just a glowing ember up there now. Of course, it’s so hot it’ll take trillions of years to go out completely.”

His brother eyed it, then got an expression he hadn’t seen in far too long. “Looks like you can burn out and fade away!”

He should groan. Roll his eyes. Push the desire to laugh way down, not encourage such terrible jokes. But that so-damn-pleased-with-himself grin lit up his brother’s face, and it really had been so long that he couldn’t even remember how to scoff.

The laugh burst free and honest, ringing into the black, miraculous and bizarrely fitting to knell the death of the world, not in oceans of blood but of natural old age. A wash of gratitude surprised him, gratitude that however the laws of physics had been wrinkled around their vantage point, that sound had not been lost. (So much had been lost, so very, very much.)

His brother’s eyes were shining, even if he only caught them for a moment before his brother could shy them away, clear his throat, pretend to be fascinated by the horizon. The Milky Way was emerging there (dispersing planetary nebula scattering less light), the majestic stellar road a faint smear in the sky, as enduring and distant as memory.

Maybe, he thought, for all this time, this had been worth waiting for.

The moment his laugh died away, he felt the release in their orbit, the beginnings of a slow spiral inward. Their disintegrating planet would fall into the last of their sun and disappear from the face of existence. He raised his face to the universe, which would continue to spin and shine and sing its song and never ever notice they’d gone. (It felt like closure.)

Then his brother cleared his throat again, voice soft and naked and spoken down at his own hands. “Thanks for coming, Sammy.”

Maybe, he thought, there would be more to be said, after all. He got up, put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Come on, Dean. Let’s go home.”

Comments

( 2 speakses — have a speak )
borgmama1of5
Feb. 4th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
This leaves me just kind of...reeling

...in a good way...
themonkeytwin
Feb. 5th, 2014 04:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad it's in a good way. It kind of did that to me too. :)
( 2 speakses — have a speak )

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